Setting up a Flash Drive to Run Automatically

by Derek Rogers - Date: 2008-10-30 - Word Count: 547 Share This!

USB flash drives are a simple solution for easy backup and storage of important data. With a storage capacity that meets or exceeds the amount of data available on a DVD, USB drives are unique in that no other hardware is needed. Once plugged into a USB slot, the information on a flash drive is immediately available to the host computer. One of the nice features of CD-ROM and DVD drives is the ability to automatically run a disk when it's inserted into the drive. USB flash drives under Windows have similar functionality, but with a few limits where XP is concerned.

When a flash drive is inserted into a Windows XP driven computer, the operating system reads the files then offers the user options of how to continue (the same process as when a data CD is inserted in a drive). Depending on the type of files on the drive, the operating system displays options relevant to the file types. In other words, if you insert a flash drive containing mp3 files, Windows will offer the option of automatically playing the music in Windows Media Player or another media program that might be installed on the computer. There is a check box under these options that controls whether or not the operating system performs the same function anytime a drive is inserted with the same type of files. Checking this box will allow you to skip this step, so the next time you insert a drive with MP3's the program you chose will run automatically.

Setting up a program to automatically run directly from a flash drive in Windows XP is a little more complicated. A third-party program will need to be installed that will give the user the option to run the program when the flash drive is inserted. The inability to auto run a program from a USB drive is a security feature in XP to prevent malevolent programs from compromising the operating system's integrity.

In contrast, Windows Vista does allow this feature. A program on the root directory of the flash drive is run by creating a text file (with a text editing program like Notepad) named autorun.inf. The autorun.inf file should include the line "[autorun] open=XXX.exe" (without the quotes) where XXX is the name of the program you want to run. Save this file to the flash drive, making sure the extension is 'inf', not 'txt'. Once the drive is inserted again, choose 'Always Do This For Software and Games', then 'Run This Program'. Whenever the drive is inserted again, the program will run automatically.

Some computers are also capable of booting directly from the flash drive by changing CMOS options. With the proper CMOS settings, the computer will first attempt to boot from a flash drive inserted in a USB port. If bootable files are not located on the flash drive, the operating system will automatically boot from your hard drive as normal. A handy feature should your computer crash and modifications to your unbootable operating system need to be performed.

Flash drives are able to do everything CD-ROMs and DVDs can do, usually with greater ease. The fact that new computers all have USB ports, but vary in DVD or CD-ROM availability, is an argument for the USB drive's indispensability over any other storage medium.

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Derek Rogers is a freelance writer who writes for a number of UK businesses. For logo branded USB Flash Drives, he recommends Your Article Search Directory : Find in Articles

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